Skip to Main Content

About The Book

A faked death, an obsessive stalker, an old man claiming he’s being abused by the ghost of his late wife, and a devastating spectre from the past. The Skelfs are back in another warmly funny, explosive thriller, and this time things are more than personal…

**SHORTLISTED for Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year**

‘A new outing for the Skelfs deserves dancing in the streets of Edinburgh' Val McDermid

‘Tense, funny and deeply moving’ Mark Billingham

‘An engrossing and beautifully written tale that bears all the Doug Johnstone hallmarks in its warmth and darkly comic undertones’ Herald Scotland

‘A total delight to be returned to the dark, funny, compulsive world of the Skelfs … Johnstone never fails to entertain whilst packing a serious emotional punch. Brilliant!’ Gytha Lodge


Death is just the beginning…

The Skelf women live in the shadow of death every day, running the family funeral directors and private investigator business in Edinburgh. But now their own grief interwines with that of their clients, as they are left reeling by shocking past events.

A fist-fight by an open grave leads Dorothy to investigate the possibility of a faked death, while a young woman’s obsession with Hannah threatens her relationship with Indy and puts them both in mortal danger. An elderly man claims he’s being abused by the ghost of his late wife, while ghosts of another kind come back to haunt Jenny from the grave … pushing her to breaking point.

As the Skelfs struggle with increasingly unnerving cases and chilling danger lurks close to home, it becomes clear that grief, in all its forms, can be deadly…


‘The Skelfs keep getting better and better. Compelling and compassionate characters, with a dash of physics and philosophy thrown in’ Ambrose Parry

‘Expertly written, with poise, insight and compassion’ Mary Paulson-Ellis

’If you loved Iain Banks, you’ll devour the Skelfs series’ Erin Kelly

‘Dynamic and poignant … Johnstone balances the cosmos, music, death and life, and wraps it all in a compelling mystery’ Marni Graff

Praise for The Skelfs series

***Shortlisted for the McIlvanney Prize for Best Scottish Crime Book of the Year***
***Shortlisted for Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year***
***Shortlisted for Amazon Publishing Capital Crime Thriller of the Year***

‘Hurroo! The Skelfs — Edinburgh funeral directors and part-time private eyes — are back … the persistence of love in the Skelf household, no matter what fate flings at it, is reassuring and life-affirming’ The Times Book of the Month

‘Told with a wry humour and affection, the novel underlines just how accomplished Johnstone has become’ Daily Mail

`Some of the most unique characters in crime fiction´ Daily Express

‘This enjoyable mystery is also a touching and often funny portrayal of grief ... more, please’ Guardian

‘Wonderful characters: flawed, funny and brave’ Sunday Times

‘Exceptional … a must for those seeking strong, authentic, intelligent female protagonists’ Publishers Weekly

‘Gripping and blackly humorous’ Observer

‘A tense ride strong, believable characters’ Kerry Hudson, Big Issue

‘The power of this book, though, lies in the warm personalities and dark humour of the Skelfs, and by the end readers will be just as interested in their relationships with each other as the mysteries they are trying to solve’ Scotsman

‘Remarkable’ Sunday Times

‘Keeps you hungry from page to page. A crime reader can’t ask anything more’ Sun

‘A thrilling, atmospheric book, set in the dark streets of Edinburgh. Move over Ian Rankin, Doug Johnstone is coming through!’ Kate Rhodes

‘An unstoppable, thrilling, bullet train of a book that cleverly weaves in family and intrigue, and has real emotional impact. I totally loved it’ Helen Fields

About The Author

Photograph © Orenda Books

Doug Johnstone is the author of twelve novels, most recently The Great Silence, the third in the Skelfs series, which has been optioned for TV. In 2021,The Big Chill, the second in the series, was longlisted for the Theakston's Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year. In 2020, A Dark Matter, the first in the series, was shortlisted for the McIlvanney Prize for Scottish Crime Novel of the Year and the Capital Crime Amazon Publishing Independent Voice Book of the Year award. Black Hearts (Book four), will be published in 2022. Several of his books have been best sellers and award winners, and his work has been praised by the likes of Val McDermid, Irvine Welsh and Ian Rankin. He's taught creative writing and been writer in residence at various institutions, and has been an arts journalist for twenty years. Doug is a songwriter and musician with five albums and three EPs released, and he plays drums for the Fun Lovin' Crime Writers, a band of crime writers. He's also player-manager of the Scotland Writers Football Club. He lives in Edinburgh.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Orenda Books (September 29, 2022)
  • Length: 300 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781914585296

Browse Related Books

Resources and Downloads

High Resolution Images

More books from this author: Doug Johnstone

More books in this series: Skelfs